Spam ends with enhanced e-mail value

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The biggest challenge for e-mail marketers is eliminating spam. Those of us who create, produce and transmit e-mail have an affirmative responsibility to solve this problem and to eliminate the cloud hanging over our industry. This is a job that requires proactive industry action, not government intervention or regulation.

E-mail is a remarkable tool and communications vehicle. Widely understood, accepted and used, its inherent qualities have been degraded by abuse and spam. In spite of can-spam laws and extensive opt-in campaigns and practices, people still don't trust e-mail because every day they are bombarded with messages they don't want and didn't ask for.

For e-mail marketing to flourish, we have to be able to verify the sender, prove that e-mail is desired and guarantee delivery to opt-in recipients without the fear of identity theft or invasion of privacy. To my way of thinking e-mail privacy is a fundamental right.

The key to ending spam is not a technical breakthrough in filtering or blocking technology. The critical variable is a change in the economics of spam to make it dramatically less profitable by building and protecting the asset value of the e-mail address.

There has been a lot of discussion about the creation of a digital stamp or a third party authentication system. The Black Penny Project initiative, like proposals to regulate or tax e-mail are driven by those with an interest in creating then controlling a system that can be monetized rather than by those who seek to give each individual e-mail address its rightful asset value.

Building a trusted, private worldwide e-mail system will require a concerted and Herculean effort. Whoever takes on the task will need to have the energy, resources, e-mail expertise, clout and focus to sustain a high level of attention and effort over several years to produce a safe, secure and universally accessible protocol. History teaches us that only free market competition and invention can yield the desired result.

And while the financial and intellectual capital costs of this paradigm shift may eliminate many of the smaller e-mail providers and increase the cost of e-mail marketing, the promise of a trusted, spam-free, safe and secure system that guarantees e-mail delivery to only those who request it is worth every penny.

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